Treefrogs exploit temporal coherence to form perceptual objects of communication signals

Saumya Gupta, Mark A. Bee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


For many animals, navigating their environment requires an ability to organize continuous streams of sensory input into discrete ‘perceptual objects’ that correspond to physical entities in visual and auditory scenes. The human visual and auditory systems follow several Gestalt laws of perceptual organization to bind constituent features into coherent perceptual objects. A largely unexplored question is whether nonhuman animals follow similar Gestalt laws in perceiving behaviourally relevant stimuli, such as communication signals. We used females of Cope’s grey treefrog (Hyla chrysoscelis) to test the hypothesis that temporal coherence—a powerful Gestalt principle in human auditory scene analysis—promotes perceptual binding in forming auditory objects of species-typical vocalizations. According to the principle of temporal coherence, sound elements that start and stop at the same time or that modulate coherently over time are likely to become bound together into the same auditory object. We found that the natural temporal coherence between two spectral components of advertisement calls promotes their perceptual binding into auditory objects of advertisement calls. Our findings confirm the broad ecological validity of temporal coherence as a Gestalt law of auditory perceptual organization guiding the formation of biologically relevant perceptual objects in animal behaviour.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20200573
JournalBiology letters
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was supported by an EEB summer research grant and the National Science Foundation (IOS 1452831).


  • Animal communication
  • Auditory objects
  • Frogs
  • Gestalt laws of perceptual organization
  • Perceptual binding
  • Temporal coherence


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